I’m not sure if you’ve heard the news, but President Donald Trump has declared that the ‘War on Christmas’ is over – and his side won.
Trump relayed the news twice recently, at last week’s Values Voter Summit and during the speech to the Heritage Foundation Tuesday night. During the latter address, Trump vowed to give the crowd “a big present” and added, “You’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas again. … You go to the stores, and they have the red walls, and they have the snow, and they even have the sleigh and the whole thing. They don’t have Merry Christmas. They don’t have Merry Christmas. I want them to say, ‘Merry Christmas, everybody.’”
He said much the same thing at the VVS, remarking, “You know, we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct. You go to department stores, and they’ll say, ‘Happy New Year’ and they’ll say other things. And it will be red, they’ll have it painted, but they don’t say it. Well, guess what? We're saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
This is the only phrase President Trump and the Religious Right want to hear this Decemeber.
It’s easy to declare victory in a war that never existed, and it’s even easier to take credit for something that can’t be quantified. (Are more people really going to say “Merry Christmas” this year? Will more stores use the phrase in ads? Who’s doing the counting?)
Everyone knows that Trump, whose presidency to date has been long on bluster but short on accomplishments, needs something to boast about it. But this is pretty pathetic even by his standards.
To begin with, I don’t know where Trump shops, but he may need to get out more. Some stores post signs, place ads or issue catalogs that say “Merry Christmas,” and some use terms like “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings.” Some use all three. You see, it’s a free country, and merchants get to decide what terminology they’ll use to describe the winter holidays. (Several take place at the end of the year, by the way, not just Christmas.)
Trump and his band of theocratic elves in the Religious Right yearn to be the Christmas Police. In their view, there’s one way to celebrate in December, one way to decorate and one phrase to use.
But, again, in a free nation people have the right to adapt a holiday to suit their needs. Sure, some people love to celebrate Christmas in a way that would make Charles Dickens proud. Lots of folks take deep meaning from the religious aspects of Christmas, delighting in things like midnight church services and religious carols.
Yet for others, the holiday is entirely secular. It’s more Santa than savior, Rudolph than redemption and Grinch than grace. These people aren’t into the religious aspects so they downplay that part or leave it out entirely. I once met a fellow who said his family celebrated Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday instead. (According to the calendar in use in England during the 17th century, Newton was born on Dec. 25.)
Some people don’t celebrate Christmas at all, and plenty of others celebrate other end-of-year holidays.
No matter what they do in December, all of these people are bringing interesting things to the table and adding to the great religious and philosophical diversity that is America. And that diversity, by the way, was made possible by a little thing called separation of church and state.
If Trump and his pals in the Religious Right want to celebrate a full-on religious Christmas, I wish them all of the best. The decorations and sale circulars at the local Target won’t affect that. They can do what they want, so why must they insist that the rest of us have to celebrate their way or no way? That’s offensive.
The “War on Christmas” has in recent years played out mainly in the studios of the Fox News Channel; it has always been thinner than dollar store wrapping paper. If Trump wants to claim he won it, let him. As long as we have the First Amendment, the rest of us, guided by the precious right of conscience, will have the freedom to celebrate, or ignore, Dec. 25 as we see fit.